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Monthly Archives: September 2012

Stair Balusters: Calculations and Layout atop Knee Wall

There are basically 4 steps.
Step 1:  Typically the balusters at each end, nearest the posts and or walls, are in 3”.  You may want to adjust this later to make the spaces more even but this is a good starting point.  So you begin by measuring your knee wall length between posts or whatever terminations you might have.  Let’s say the measurement is 144 ½” and subtracting 6”. (3” from each end for the first and last baluster)

Step 2:  Determine the approximate layout by adding the thickness of your baluster at its narrowest point to the constant of 4 ½”.  Assuming a 3/4” narrowest-point baluster the formula and result is as follows: 0.75 + 4.5 = 5.25 or 5 ¼”

Step 3:  Divide the total knee wall length less 6” by the approximate baluster spacing, figured in step 2, then round up.  Using our example that is 138.5 ÷ 5.25 = 26.38 or 27 spaces.

Step 4:  Now, to get the exact spacing divide the length 138.5 by 27 to get the final measurement of 5.13 or 5 1/8”.

Now we have all of the information we just need to put it all together.  We have 27 spaces between 26 balusters plus the additional 2 that start 3” away from the termination at each end and are spaced 5 1/8” apart.  Thus 28 balusters.

This may seem a little complicated so please don’t hesitate to call if you have any questions regarding design, layout, installation or any of our products and services.  We are always happy to help.  CustomersFirst@WoodStairs.com or 888.390.7245

Stair Balusters: Calculation and Layout

Determining the number of balusters your stairway requires and their spacing is a simple process that requires only a couple of steps.  Yes, that rather weak pun was intended. :)

First, you need to know the tread run.  This is the length of the stair tread from riser to riser.  This is often confusing because people tend to measure from the back riser to the front of the tread nosing.  If you are able to measure at the side of the stairway you can usually place the end of the tape against one riser and measure across the tread “eyeballing” the distance to the riser below it.  If you don’t have access, such as in the case of a closed or kneewall stringer, just measure one full tread from the back riser to the nosing.  Then measure how far the nosing sticks out beyond the riser below and subtract this from the first measurement.  For example if you have a measurement of 11 ¼” from riser to nosing on top of the tread then 1 ¼” from the riser below to the nosing overhang you have a tread run of 10″.

Next, you divide the tread run by the minimum code spacing.  For example if you have a 10” tread run and your local building code requires that a 4” sphere may not pass through the balusters, you would take 10 ÷ 4 = 2.5.  Thus you need at least 2.5 balusters per tread to meet code.  So, we round up to 3 balusters per tread multiplied by the number of treads and there you have the number of balusters required for your stairway.

Now, to find out the spacing you simply divide your 10” tread run by the 3 balusters per tread to get 3.3333 or 3 11/32” center to center.

Creativity Under the Stairs

Remodeling your stairway?  Why just upgrade from bad to good when you could make it extraordinary?  While this can be expensive, even cost prohibitively so, with a little ingenuity you might just create a design for your staircase that is both amazing and inexpensive.

Often the space under the stairs is a dead zone.  Wall it in, close it off, add a door and call it a closet, or rather junk closet is often a more accurate description.  This doesn’t have to be the case, with a slight adjustment in design, this unique space can often be transformed not only into somewhere useful but something stunning.  While the possibilities are virtually endless, unfortunately most of us are limited by a budget so I’ve kept these examples within the typical range of possibilities.

Depending upon they type of stairs you have and what you would like to achieve there are a number of options.  For those simply wanting to maximize space why not consider a bike rack like this.

Under the stairs cabinets beautifully display in an interesting geometric array.  Maximize your space while utilizing this often wasted space as a unique feature in your home.  Here are a few examples to get your creative juices flowing.

Most of these designs are very easy to achieve because they do not encroach into the structure of the staircase itself.  Adding lighting is a great enhancement to a beautiful and elegant under the stairs bookshelf.

 

The stairs in this ingenius design are actually constructed from the shelves themselves.

 

You can also use the following unique approach to beautifully utilize the space while keeping your items neatly organized and hidden away in readily accessable drawers.

Attaching a floor level handrail between walls WITHOUT rosettes

We recently wrote a post describing the process of attaching a level banister handrail between walls with rosettes.  The alternative to that process is to use rail bolts.  This post is not intended to explain how to use rail bolts but instead to describe a simple trick for using them when the rail will be attached between two walls or posts.  The “problem” that arises when using rail bolts on both ends of a level balustrade is that it appears there is no way to get the rail in place when the rail bolts have been screwed into the walls on either side.  Thus the purpose of this post.

The “trick of the trade” is to notch out the bottom/end of the hand rail on one end which allows the rail to drop over its corresponding rail bolt.  Basically, just before you are ready to install the handrail after it has been cut to length and drilled for a rail bolt installation, you take a sharp chisel and a hammer and remove a channel for the rail bolt to drop over.  Place the sharpened chisel on the end of the handrail as shown in RED and by gently tapping it with a hammer split the grain.

Hand Rail Key Hole for Rail Bolt

Attaching a Floor Level Balustrade with Rosettes.

Attaching a level banister handrail between walls with one or two rosettes is relatively simple process.  First make certain that there is backing in the wall where the rail terminates prior to installing it, typically this can be done using a stud finder.  Next, before attaching the rosettes to the handrail predrill the face of each rosette with two ½” hole about 3/8” deep (or halfway through the rosette).  These holes should be above and below where the handrail will attach to the rosette, leaving enough room to pre-drill and screw the rosette to the wall later.  Now determine the length the handrail needs to be at its position between the walls. Remember that not all walls are perfectly plumb so just because it fits on the ground doesn’t necessarily mean it will fit 36 or so inches above.  Once you know this length, cut the rail short to include the rosettes being used, typically these are ¾” thick or 1 ½” if you are using them at both ends.  Once the rail has been cut to length, pre-drill and attach the rosette to the handrail by screwing through the back of the rosette into handrail.  This is best done with two screws, toward the top and bottom of the handrail but leaving enough material so as not to split the handrail.  This prevents the rosette from spinning, also a little wood glue doesn’t hurt either.  Next, assemble the balustrade and set the rail atop the balusters, this of course varies depending upon which type of balusters you are using.  When this is done all that is left is to attach the rosettes to the wall.  Predrill a hole through the rosette into the ½” hole you previously drilled.  This hole should be large enough to allow the screw to “push” through rather than thread into the rosette and be angled in such a way as to insure the screw will hit the backing behind the drywall.  Your drill will be against the balusters when predrilling and screwing the rosette to the wall so using a long drill bit and a long driver (Phillips, Square Drive, etc.) will allow an angle more parallel to the balustrade.  Finally, with a bit smaller than the screw you intend to use, predrill the backing large enough that you do not snap the head off of the screw but small enough that it doesn’t strip out the hole.  The best way to determine the size of bit is to use a little trial and error on a block before drilling the actual holes.  After you’ve figured this out you simple screw the rosette securely to the wall, making sure you have hit backing.  Finally, to conceal the hole you can use either a ½” face grain plug or a button plug as the final touch and your balustrade is installed!